loading...
Home > The Bird and the Sword(10)

The Bird and the Sword(10)
Author: Amy Harmon

I heard them before I saw them.

Horses scream. Men scream too, though they never admit it. But the Volgar shrieked, a cross between man and gull, amplified by ten, and the sound was piercing, ear-splitting, and I almost fell in my desperation to cover my ears.

Then there was no more separation, no more distance between earth and sky, and the birdmen began to drop, plucking warriors from their mounts with curled talons and powerful legs. They rose, straight up, clutching their dangling prey only to release them to plummet to their deaths.

King Tiras slid from his horse, pulling me with him, dragging me back as he swung his sword at a birdman with tattered wings, pointed ears, and skin the color of dead grass. The king shoved me beneath the low branches of a huge evergreen, the trunk at my back, and lunged into the fray, his blade already wet and dripping. I could only watch as death descended in droves. The now rider-less horses screamed and reared, trampling a felled warrior and creating a stampede in the midst of the melee.

Through the branches and the crush of man and beast, I saw Boojohni running toward me, his legs pumping and his eyes wide with terror. A shadow swooped over him and dropped, claws extended, to carry him away.

I didn’t stop to think. I only ran, scooping up the hilt of the trampled warrior’s enormous sword as I raced toward my only friend. Boojohni screamed, his back arching in panic and protest as the claws of the Volgar latched in his tunic, lifting him off the ground. I wouldn’t reach him in time to do anything but watch him rise. The sword wobbled in my arms, too heavy to throw, too awkward to swing.

Release him! My head shrieked, my frozen voice trapped in my throat.

RELEASE HIM!

The birdman paused mid-air, his eyes locked on mine, and like a chastised child, his claws snapped open and Boojohni fell from his grasp, falling to the earth in a scrambling heap. Boojohni had hardly touched down before he was up again, running, screaming my name. The birdman retreated dizzily, as if he’d forgotten how to fly. An arrow slid through his chest, and he cartwheeled toward the earth, slain.

“Run!” Boojohni screeched, grabbing at my arm. I still clung to the useless sword, unwilling to let it go. Another birdman descended nearby, sinking his talons into Kjell, who, with both hands, swung his sword over his head, sinking the blade into the breast of the winged beast. The birdman shrieked in outrage and tried to fly away, pulling Kjell a foot off the ground before the warrior twisted his blade, and they both landed in a tangle of blood and grey feathers. Kjell rolled out from beneath the dying creature and yanked his sword from its shuddering chest, only to stagger to his feet to fight again.

There were so many. I stumbled forward, still dragging the sword, as Boojohni called out a desperate warning. I spun in fright, gripping the sword in both hands. With momentum and sheer luck, I managed to cut down another Volgar, whose blood was vivid green on an all-too-human chest. He staggered back and crumpled, his wings twitching as he died. I retched at the gaping wound I’d inflicted and mentally begged the horrific creatures to retreat, hating them, but hating the carnage even more.

Fly. Leave, I urged the birdmen that kept coming. Go. Leave now. Live.

I saw a few wing for the sky, as if heeding my pleas.

“Lark!” Boojohni urged, pulling me forward, “Run!”

I threw myself beneath the branches of the evergreen where King Tiras had bade me stay and peered out at the swarming Volgar, at the taloned feet and hands, the sharp horns, the razor-sharp wings sprouting from human trunks. King Tiras and Kjell stood back to back in the midst of it all, swords swinging, a dozen beasts encircling them. Neither hesitated nor faltered, but their clothes were slick with blood, and a dozen fallen guards lay strewn like abandoned poppets at their feet.

We were all going to die.

I resisted the thought, pushing it away, fearful of the very suggestion, and turned the voice outward on the flying horde.

Fly before you die.

Fly before you die.

Fly before you die.

They weren’t listening. I was too afraid. My fear made the words tremble and break before I could release them. I watched as another warrior plummeted to the earth and King Tiras sank his sword knuckle-deep into a Volgar’s belly. Two more took its place before the king could free his sword. One of his guards threw himself in front of the king only to be swept off the ground. I closed my eyes to shut out the terror and the certainty of defeat.

Fly before you die.

Fly before you die.

Fly before you die.

I made the words a roar in my head, filling up the black space behind my closed eyes, making me tremble and my ears pop. I heard Boojohni shouting, but I didn’t open my eyes. I didn’t dare.

Then I couldn’t hear anything but my own thoughts, echoing like I’d fallen down a well and found my voice at last, only to scream for rescue.

Fly before you die. Fly before you die. Fly before you die.

Before you die.

You die.

Die.

Pain bloomed hot and sharp across my face. The words clanging in my skull faltered and broke, leaving a dull ache between my eyes and a metallic taste in my mouth. Boojohni’s beard tickled my nose and his sour breath singed my eyebrows. I turned my head to find fresh air and forced my eyelids open, my hand going to my stinging cheek. Someone had slapped me. Hard.

“She’s awake. She’s awake!” Boojohni chortled, his relief making him giggle. I glowered up at him, noting that night had fallen while the battle raged. Of course I was awake. He helped me sit up and gave me a measure of space. He must have pulled me out from under the evergreen at some point. I swayed, and a hand shot out to steady me. I met the black eyes of King Tiras who was crouched above me. Even in the light of the fat, full moon he was filthy with gore, but he appeared uninjured. The same could not be said for more than half of his men. Bodies of the Volgar were intermingled with the dead and dying members of the king’s guard.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology